Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oh How I Hesitate ...

I've even considered taking down the post on what happened at the airport just to stop the flow of comments and emails. It is taking a mammoth act of will to even look at what's going on here on the blog. I got up to write this because I feel that I have to even though I am terrified of reigniting the firestorm which is only now slowly dying down.

The comments that are personal attacks are really quite rare and are not what concern me much. Remember I am a public speaker, one of the only professions where you are evaluated (anonymously) every time you go to work. I just finished a big one here in Toronto and saw a few of the negative evaluations - they sting but less and less over time. So, those that are critical of how I told the story, the information I did or did not give, who I am as a disabled guy - OK, I actually expect those, I don't like them, I'd rather live without them, but I expect them.

What bothers me though are some of the other things that are said. Maybe it really is about how I told the story but here's my concerns with some of the comments ...

1) I don't like stereotyping. I wrote about the behaviour of one person. One person. I was not attacking an industry. I was not attacking a profession. It was one person. I am capable of seeing one person as distinct from many people. I have had more negative encounters with waitpeople in restaurants than I ever have had with security people. Most of my encounters at the airport are respectful. I get patted down by these folks, they touch me, and almost all do it with incredible professionalism. I didn't expect my story to lead to racist remarks about security people, attacks on them as individuals or as a group. This was ONE GUY. I'm sure I wrote about just ONE GUY. What he did was serious, needs to be dealt with, but it was one (1) guy.

2) What does IQ have to do with bigotry? So many commentors have gone on and on about how stupid and moronic this guy was. Well, I think what he did was based on bigotry, on prejudice about who people with disabilities are ... I don't think that this is tied to intellegence at all. Have you met teachers who think disabled kids can't learn? Have you met university professors who think that the elimination of disabled genes is a good idea? Have you met white collar professionals who believe their tax dollars are wasted by increasing access in buildings and on streets? I have. The idea that 'negative characteristics' are located in 'stupid minds' is what leads to the presumption that intellegence is 'good' and everything else is 'bad'. That maybe we should somehow exclude those who have minds that are a little slower. These comments make me both fearul and nausious.

3) I hate, full on hate, the 'R' word. It is used here in the comment section, it is used by those commenting on the story on other sites. Using hateful language about disability to criticise someone else's behaviour regarding disability is ... odd. It's upsetting. I don't know how to comment except to say ... and you want me to allow you to express my outrage? my concern? If I could I'd be protesting YOU. At least I can find the source of the this problem and hopefully have an effect.

4) A few, but certainly not all, of those commenting are simply venting their rage without any sense of sympathy for me, for what it felt like for those few moments when I did not exist. I realize that the story means something very different to these commentors than it does to me. But I wrote about invisibility and then become invisible in the comments. The behaviour of people is about it's impact on others, isn't it ... or maybe not.

5) Those who are visiting the blog do not know it at all. This is to be expected of course. I've gotten more visitors in two days than I have in the history of the blog itself. But I've written, several times, about the pressures of a daily blog, a full time (and a half) job, a relationship, life with a disability and 'other interests'. I made the decision that if I was going to have a daily blog I would not be responding, like many do, to comments in the comment section. That I had to decide where to put my time. It's been hard but I've kept to that decision and let the discussion run without me. Chewing the Fat was established with a few rules that my regular readers know and expect, it would have been nice if those being hostile about my lack of 'presence' had done just a wee bit of research on the blog about the blog.

I am breaking all sorts of my internal rules in writing todays blog. I don't want a new volley of attacks but if I'm going to stand against disablism and disphobia, I need to stand here too.


Belinda said...

It was a storm! You and your regular readers (plus a few more, I am sure) will sail on today and the storm is behind us.

Who could know what would come of that post? A storm in a teacup, I think. I am going to have a cup right now, without a storm--a nice cup of tea! Every one knows that a nice cup of tea fixes anything. Tea anyone?

Brenda said...

I'll take that cup of tea, Belinda!

Dave - I confess I didn't comment on your original airport post because, well, you know I just sit here in Scarborough nodding my head. It was terrible, unforgivable, but not really surprising (sadly). However, when I read this morning's post, curiosity got the better of me and I went back to read the comments - every one of them. Oh. my. word. There is absolutely no way that you, or anyone else, cold have possibly seen that crazy free-for-all coming. I can certainly understand your thoughts on just taking the whole thing down. I just started a blog myself (only three entries so far), but now I'm thinking that perhaps I should enable the comment moderation. I suppose this sort of thing happens when you have a blog, but DANG! My two cents? Don't take it down - some of them would just love that. But you might want to consider the comment moderation, at least for a while until this dies down. Just for your peace of mind. if the original incident wasn't bad enough...

Laura(southernxyl) said...

There's bullies out there who scent blood. That's all. They probably do that on every blog they run across. Have to be miserable people b/c happy people don't act that way.

I'm just amazed you didn't have a stroke that day. I'm sure your blood pressure was through the roof.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I found your blog on the same day as your post about the airport. I was looking for you, because of the major impact you have had on my life and my career.

I had the great pleasure of attending a workshop with you in NYS in the late 1990s, when I worked for an agency that served people with multiple disabilities. Your work legitimized my advocacy for a person who wanted "alone" time. The powers that be with the matching bag and shoes finally relented and implemented the behavior plan I'd written. It was considered far out because rather than trying to eliminate his need for alone time, it focused on his right to alone time, and teaching him to do so without jeopardizing the rights of others.

After 15 years of working 'in the field,' (the last 6 in a psychiatric facility) I've returned to school to earn a master's in Rehabilitation Counseling. In one of my classes, Psycho Social Aspects of Disability, we are talking about sexuality. It brought it all back.

Thank you for the inspiration, and for continuing to raise the consciousness in everday situations.

Hopefully, this will be a teaching moment for the airline and airport.

a Big Grrl in NYC

yanub said...

It has been quite the hullabaloo here. But I hope you resist temptation and leave up your post. As much as it has become a lightening rod for nasty attitudes, it has also surely attracted a lot of people who didn't know about disability perspectives and are open to learning more.

And I'm glad you took time out to remind people that this is one security guard's actions, that it doesn't reflect on an entire class of people. You'd think after the horrible Richard Jewel fiasco that people would have re-examined their prejudices, but, if anything, the classist attitudes toward security guards in particular and service workers in general have gotten even worse.

rickismom said...

Well said! I thought that the otriginal post was good, but as I found it after 151 other people, I decided that further comment was surely not needed. I certainly didn't have time to read them all! I think that all of your points today are very good AND very pertinent AND VERY needed!!!!

Unknown said...


I mean im sorry that the situation happened...but it's GOOD that these things get posted around...and I'm sorry that you have to deal with the backlash.

People need to understand...and sometimes it takes a slap to get them to pay attention.

So you slapped!

Hopefully some good comes of it, although with the current dictatorship mentality at the's doubtful, but if it makes just one person stop and think......

Monica said...

So, I'm one of the people who found your blog only because of the airport post. I was appalled at the treatment you received, but what prompted me to become a follower was the dignity with which you handled it and then wrote about it. It's this post that will keep me checking regularly. I appreciate your view of the world and a peek into your life and thoughts.

Ssejors said...

I'm with Belinda. I'm going to have a cup of tea right now FOR Dave. Earl Grey!

I didn't comment on the original post because I usually just love the way you end things Dave. As a daily reader of your blog, I will read comments but I don't always comment. When I clicked into the post I didn't realize how many comments you had received. (I honestly thought I saw that you had received 16 comments, but I must have not seen the 7) After reading and scanning through all the comments I was just so upset and honestly, very angry. I felt awful that so many people had just flew in, random people who don't regularly read your blog, lurking or trolling for trouble. Not All of them mind you, but I couldn't understand for the life of me why one particular person had invested so much time in demanding details, as though they were going to decide your fate then and there once you divulged the official DETAILS. They actually seemed upset that you hadn't responded to their comments and questions. And the weirdest thing was that this person had never read one other single post on your blog. Didn't know a single thing about you but was willing to judge you on your DETAILS of this airport fiasco! Even at one point implying that you might not even be a "HE". As though you have time to spend pretending to be some alter ego online. 30 seconds on goggle would teach a person a lot about Dave Hingsburger the Advocate and Writer.

I am so glad you didn't respond Dave. I couldn't even finish reading all of the comments; I was just so... confused. And in all 167 posts, Dave disappeared. It was no longer about you and your post and your story, it was about everyone else. How frustrating and strange. I never get comments on my own blog, and today I am very glad. I would rather have no comments then a million comments from people I don't know demanding proof. I also wonder why someone took such offence to the TSA comments.
Things will work out for you in regards to the Airport Fiasco (as I have now dubbed it). You are respectful, dignified and rational and I can't imagine that shouldn't receive the same from the airlines.

I just wanted to say, as a daily reader of your blog, a Mother of a Son with Down Syndrome, A Fellow Canadian, A Fellow Blogger, A Definite Dave Hingsburger Fan, I am one of your true constant readers Dave. Thank you for all that you do to help those with disabilities to have a voice! You are a wonderful man and a fabulous writer!
I hope one day that my son and I can see you speak. Till then Dave, KEEP ON KEEPING ON!!

<3 ssej

Myrrien said...

I'm enjoying my Earl Grey as I read today's blog.

I was horrified by some of the comments but the person who started questioning whether Dave actually existed or was a man made me laugh - how utterly pathetic.

It is sad though when a blog dedicated to raising the awareness of the experiences of those affected by disability has comments thrown at it which highlight the very issues it is dedicated to, the use of the R word for example. I just hope the decent readers stay around and learn from you Dave.

It looks like I might have to stop being lazy for a bit and start posting under my name.

Unknown said...

Dave, with all due respect, it may have been just one guy who did this to you, but it is almost never just one guy who is culpable.

Someone hired him. Someone set the hiring criteria. Someone trained him. Someone approved his probationary period. Someone gave him feedback. Someone kept him on the job. Someone provided him with examples to follow. Someone was a role model for him. Someone told him how to interpret regulations. Someone was part of the corporate culture that surrounded him every day

Now it's possible that every single one of those people acted completely contrary to any way that would create or encourage his behavior, but it is very, very unlikely. If the company does anything at all they will attempt to blame it solely on this one individual, but if they do not feel enough heat to examine how the actions of others contributed to it, then it is just inevitable that sooner or later some other guy in the same company will do something similar to someone else like you. You have enough attention right now to be able to focus a light on that company that will get real results, if you're willing to endure the publicity.

FridaWrites said...

I hope you leave the post up; I think things will settle quickly. Having a post get so much attention in that way would be pretty stressful. The original situation was difficult enough.

Please don't worry about pleasing every person all of the time (whether with writing or speaking). Person 1 may want X, while Person 2 may want the opposite of X.

Though I didn't comment when you first made the post, it was one that had me calling my husband to put down the laundry basket "right now" to read it. What happened was awful and scary. I'd have been worried about getting tasered or even being arrested for protesting, and that the luggage would be carted off.

Kate said...

Well said, and I hope you leave it up, because it was one of the most meaningful things I'd read in a long time.

Shan said...

Oh dear, I was gone for a couple of days and now I'm disappointed to find you took the post down! I like me a good firestorm.

To Peter, I respectfully disagree about the corporate backing implicit in the fact of this guy's employment. It is actually possible that in every other respect, he behaves perfectly appropriately. Maybe he got high-90's on all his exams, is courteous and respectful to everybody, shows up to his shifts on time and is scrupulously honest. It could be that this was the first time the disabled-dude-attending-his-own-luggage thing has ever come up.

And of course, it's quite likely that if it HAS happened before, nobody in charge has ever found out about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, the comments about IQ and the "R" word comments really upset me. I knew there was no point in replying because they wouldn't care.


Anonymous said...

I'm on the cusp of the disabled world - rapidly worsening health issues are decreasing my mobility and limiting my ability to care for myself and my son. Today was an awful day; a major asthma attack last night left me too exhausted to get off the couch today. But one of the scariest things for me is the fear of losing the physical freedom to travel, to see the world, to experience new things. We ALL need to read about experiences like yours in the airport, to educate not only ourselves, about our rights, but so that the fully mobile world can glimpse, and perhaps begin to understand, the perspective of the less able.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the airport entry, and thank you for posting THIS entry.

FWIW, I've had the experience of a personal blog suddenly being noticed on a larger scale (a long time ago), and I sympathize with you about what happened here. It sucks in a lot of ways. I just wanted to say I hope you won't let it discourage you too much and I hope you leave the post up.

This kind of thing mostly does blow over eventually, and I ... well, crap, I just feel like almost anything I say will sound dismissive, so maybe I'll just leave it at that.

I found your blog due to the airport post, though, and I have read several other entries. There are a lot of people who understood what you wrote. It's just that the trolls and those with their own agendas can be a lot louder.

I know you don't need my approval, but you are doing a good thing here.

Thank you again.

Beth said...

One point: You use the term "moronic" in your post. That's virtually the same thing as saying "retarded". "Moron" used to be a classification for intellectual disability. Just because "profoundly retarded" replaced it as a medical term, doesn't mean it's okay to use it in casual speech. At least it isn't okay if you're opposed to using "retarded".

Ettina said...

Beth, a correction:
'Moron' wasn't replaced by profoundly retarded, but by mildly retarded.
'Morons' were the high functioning ones, 'idiots' were the low functioning ones, and 'imbeciles' were in between.
This was around the 1930's. Around the late 1800s, 'idiot' and 'imbecile' could be used for any functioning level, with usage differing from person to person. That's why John Langdon Down called savants 'idiot savants' even though in the 1930s they'd mostly be called imbeciles.